In Evelyn Waugh's novel A Handful of Dust as in D.H. Lawrence's novel St Mawr, a common rhetorical layer discusses the search for life's meaning, which in many aspects mirrors Ellington's experience of finding agreeability in music, as well as the sensation of childishness. In A Handful of Dust Waugh's protagonist, Tony Last, searches throughout the story for something grander than the reality and drudgery of English life. This search manifests itself more subtly in his attachment to Hetton and quite clearly in his quest to find the City. Similarly, in Lawrence's St. Mawr Lou Witt is a protagonist who searches for something greater than her reality in a little old house in Westminster (Lawrence, 6), and St. Mawr is the catalyst for Lou's search which leads her to the American Southwest. Both Lawrence and Waugh were English-born writers and both works were published within ten years of each other.
[...] However, in A Handful of Dust Waugh points out that the first base camp the furthest point of commercial penetration from the coast” (Waugh, 234). The impact of commercialization and the commodification of human lives is yet another common theme throughout the two novels. In Waugh's novel, the road to the City is untouched by commercial development. Tony, a creature of civilization, is unable to escape his own commercialized culture; they attempt to trade wind-up mice with the natives, who run away from the toys, and this may symbolize the impurity that Waugh associates with commercialization which is antithetical to the discovery of that greater truth. [...]
[...] (Lawrence, 154) Lawrence describes a process of rebirth and revitalization that man must go through to extract himself from the illusions surrounding life and civilization. Tony Last is unable to win anything from the crudeness of nature because of his inability to see the charade that is life. Mrs. Witt, like the New England woman, has to hide from her own corpse because she cannot give herself to that wild spirit like Lou resolves to do. She can only hide in her own wit and vanity. [...]
[...] Witt is initially described as, “riding a grey gelding as smart as she was, and looking down her conceited, inquisitive, scornful, aristocratic-democratic Lousiana nose at the people in Piccadilly, as she crossed to the Row, followed by the taciturn shadow of Phoenix” (Lawrence, 8). As her name implies, Mrs. Witt is one of the most intelligent people in the novel, yet she is also out of touch with that greater realization which Tony and Lou search for. When St. Mawr advances towards the Texan mare, Lawrence writes, “Mrs. [...]
[...] An example of his absurd attachment to those ideals is seen when Waugh writes, had got into a habit of loving and trusting Brenda” (Waugh, 172). Even though everyone in London and around Hetton knows about Brenda's infidelity, Tony is so strait-jacketed by his proclivity towards chivalric ideals that he remains blind to what is obvious to everyone else. Waugh mocks Tony with the character of Princess Abdul Akbar. She answers John Andrews questions about the East, and explains that on a Moulay's “birthday all his horsemen used to assemble round a great square, with all their finest clothes and trappings and jewels, with long swords in their hands” (Waugh, 117). [...]
[...] With the death of John Andrews, Brenda confesses her own infidelity, and after going through wayward motions towards divorce, Tony decides to take a trip to the Amazon in search of the City. Lou Witt requires a similar experience to bring her to the realization that she too needs to escape all the false illusions that surround life. St. Mawr is described as “some splendid demon, and she must worship (Lawrence, 14). The presence of St. Mawr stirs in the Lou the idea that there is something greater than her banal reality. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee